Logo Title Quebec Reading Connection

Belzhar

Wolitzer, Meg (Author)
Penguin Random House 2015. 266 pages
First published: 2014
ISBN: 9780142426296 (paperback)
9780525423058 (hardcover)
9781101600276 (e-book)
Original language: English
Book type: Novel
Book genre: Realistic

Text Elements:

characterization, conflict, language conventions

Reading Range

 
Cycle
Elementary
Secondary
 
1
2
3
1
2
ELA
K
1
2
3
4
5
6
1
2
3
4
5

Description:

Jam Gallahue spent the past year unable to recover from the death of her boyfriend, Reeve. Her family sends her to The Wooden Barn in Vermont, a school for “emotionally fragile, highly intelligent teenagers.” There she is selected for ‘Special Topics in English,’ an exclusive and coveted class with a good deal of mystery around it.

Highly skeptical, Jam goes to class as aloof and remote as the other four “damaged” classmates. Along with reading Sylvia Plath’s book, The Bell Jar, the students are each given old leather journals that transport them back to before their trauma occurred. Their last visit requires them to relive their trauma and let it go. They name this alternate reality, ‘Belzhar.’

The novel is written with sensitivity and craft in the highly believable first-person voice of Jam; magical realism is woven tightly into the world of the wounded teenagers. Relationships and emotion are explored with depth. Following on the complexities of Jam’s relationship with Reeve, a new budding romance with a classmate makes her realize what a truly healthy and positive relationship can look like. “We look at each other a long time, and then I lean my head against his chest, and there’s that feeling again, that spill of happiness and relief.”

An insightful portrait of psychological suffering that offers a roadmap to healing.

  •  

    This novel can be used to explore how adolescents are represented in young adult literature. Explore this topic in book clubs, a genre study or a literary inquiry.

  •  How are Jam and her contemporaries represented? In small groups, discuss the way the adolescents are characterized. How do they act when they are together? With adults?
  •  

    Read this text along with others that explore issues related to adolescent mental health. Discuss the issues they present in a book club or other small group setting.

  • To construct his/her identity
  • To cooperate with others
  • Health and Well-Being
  • Personal Development